14 November 2003, Volume
ITALIAN MILITARY POLICE HEADQUARTERS BOMBED IN AL-NASIRIYAH.
Militants bombed the Italian military police headquarters in Al-Nasiriyah on 12 November, international media reported. Early reports indicated as many as 26 people dead from the blast, including 18 Italians and eight Iraqis.
The incident occurred when a truck crashed through the front of the Italian security installation, followed by a car carrying the explosives, a British spokeswoman in southern Iraq said. The director of Al-Nasiriyah General Hospital, Khudayr al-Hazbar, told Reuters that more than 80 individuals were wounded in the incident. According to AP, about 60 of those individuals are thought to be Iraqis. The building collapsed from the intensity of the explosion, reportedly trapping an unknown number of individuals.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a statement that the attack would not influence Italy's commitment to the coalition in Iraq. "No intimidation will budge us from our willingness to help that country rise up again and rebuild itself with self-government, security, and freedom." Some 2,300 Italian troops are stationed in southern Iraq under the command of British forces.
The United States military struck back at militants in Baghdad on 12 November through air strikes as part of Operation Iron Hammer, international media reported. U.S. forces bombed a warehouse used by militants, setting off a string of explosions that could be heard across Baghdad, AP reported on 13 November. "The facility is a known meeting, planning, storage, and rendezvous point for belligerent elements currently conducting attacks on coalition forces and infrastructure," AP quoted the U.S. Defense Department as saying. Meanwhile, a new field assessment by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warns that aggressive U.S. counterinsurgency measures have left many Iraqis disillusioned and might have pushed them to support anticoalition militants in Iraq, Reuters reported on 13 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. DISMAY SURFACES OVER IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL'S PERFORMANCE...
Senior U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad have begun openly to express the administration's displeasure with the performance of some Iraqi Governing Council members, washingtonpost.com reported on 9 November. U.S. officials say the council has not moved quickly enough to meet its obligations. "We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," an unnamed U.S. official said. Governing Council members have reportedly said the security situation in Iraq has affected the council's work.
U.S. officials have said council members spend much of their time traveling and do not attend scheduled meetings, instead sending representatives to sit in for them. Other U.S. officials have said council members are putting their own interests ahead of the common good. Washingtonpost.com reported that the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has warned council members on more than one occasion about their performance, and the United States is now considering establishing an alternative governing body similar to the Afghan model.
One Iraqi political group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), has said it opposes any change in the structure of the Iraqi Governing Council, and has called on the U.S. to give the council even greater powers. The INC's Entifadh Qanbar told a press conference in Baghdad on 11 November: "The [Iraqi Governing Council] comprises important political forces.... The [council] comprises important political forces and figures who struggled for years against the former regime and continue to struggle to establish democracy. There is political harmony among these parties. We believe that the best solution is to consolidate the status of the [council] by giving it full powers and considering it as a provisional government until a constitution is enacted...."
Meanwhile, Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters at a 9 November joint press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Baghdad that the council will meet the 15 December deadline to decide on a mechanism for drafting a constitution, to be followed by national elections, Reuters reported. "The ball is now in our court, and we must deliver," he said. Palacio expressed support for the Iraqi Governing Council, telling reporters that Spain will "fight the terrorists, and we will stand with the Governing Council," dpa reported on 9 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AS U.S. ADMINISTRATOR HEADS TO WASHINGTON FOR TALKS ON IRAQI LEADERSHIP.
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer reportedly arrived in Washington on 11 November for talks with U.S. administration officials on the possibility of restructuring the Iraqi leadership, international media reported. Washingtonpost.com reported on 9 November that the United States is considering establishing an alternative governing body based on the Afghan model.
U.S. officials are playing down rumors about the United States' alleged dissatisfaction with the Iraqi Governing Council's performance. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on 10 November said: "That's not the U.S. government view. The U.S. government view is [that] the Iraqi Governing Council is a representative body. We work with them on all aspects of Iraq's reconstruction.... They already have a significant number of accomplishments under their belt in terms of...appointing the ministers who are getting Iraqi systems, Iraqi education, Iraqi medical/health care, Iraqi transportation, [and] Iraqi police up and running. There's already considerable progress in those areas, thanks in part to the ministers that they've appointed."
Bremer, meanwhile, told reporters that he would be taking U.S. President George W. Bush's remarks back to the Iraqi Governing Council following high-level administration meetings in Washington on 12 November, RFE/RL reported. "The Governing Council itself has a number of plans they've been discussing, and it was useful for me to come back and reflect to the president and his advisers what those options might be. They are not my options; they are options put forward by the Governing Council. I will now go back and reflect the president's and his advisers' views on the path forward [with Governing Council members]." Bremer did not disclose details of the meetings, except to say: "We have been moving forward to find ways to continue to transfer authority to the Iraqis as they are ready for it. We think they've made a lot of progress on that. I have made proposals to transfer more authority to the Iraqi Governing Council, and that is the backdrop for all of these discussions." (Kathleen Ridolfo)SOME U.S. MILITARY COMMANDERS SAY INSURGENCY PLANNED.
A number of U.S. military commanders in Iraq have concurred with the above-mentioned CIA assessment that posits that insurgent attacks in Iraq might be part of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's war plan, washingtonpost.com reported on 13 November.
"I believe Saddam Hussein always intended to fight an insurgency should Iraq fall," Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said. "That's why you see so many of these arms caches out there in significant numbers all over the country," he added. Swannack said there is no evidence that Hussein is running the day-to-day planning of militant attacks, since it appears that he is still changing his position rather frequently. The 12 November car bombing in Al-Nasiriyah was the 13th vehicle bombing in Iraq since the 7 August car bombing against the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 7 August 2003), AP reported on 13 November.
Meanwhile, an interpreter who worked for Hussein for nearly 16 years told LCI television in France that Hussein asked him to find a book on urban guerrilla warfare weeks before the U.S. launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, Reuters reported on 12 November. Sama Abd al-Majid, who has just published a book on his career with Hussein, said the deposed Iraqi leader asked for a copy of a 1960s book on urban guerilla warfare written by the late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.
"Did he expect to lead a resistance the way it's being led today in Iraq? I don't think so," Abd al-Majid said. "He did not expect to achieve victory over the U.S. Army, he expected...a heroic resistance and to inflict such enormous human losses on the Americans that they would be forced to stop their advance." The interpreter's theories correspond with statements made by Hussein to his advisers and to Iraqi forces, as widely reported in Iraqi media before the war (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 February 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)GOVERNING COUNCIL HEAD SAYS AL-QAEDA, ANSAR, AND BA'ATHISTS BEHIND ATTACKS.
Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of November Jalal Talabani told Al-Arabiyah television on 11 November that members of Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, and Ba'athists from the deposed Hussein regime are behind recent terrorist attacks in Iraq. "The evidence is clear," Talabani said. "Bin Laden clearly stated that he sent forces to Iraq, and the Ansar al-Islam group leader also clearly stated that he sent his fighters to Iraq to fight the U.S. Army and the Iraqi people." Talabani added that while he believes that militants are infiltrating Iraq from neighboring countries, he does not believe that those militants are state-sponsored. Rather, they are individuals acting on their own accord, he claimed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TURKOMAN INTERVIEWED ON CONSTITUTIONAL DRAFTING COMMITTEE.
Abbas al-Bayati, a Turkoman who sits on the committee overseeing the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, told Istanbul's NTV on 11 November that the future Iraqi government will "neither be a 100 percent Shari'a state, nor will it be a 100 percent secular state." He said it would likely resemble the governments of Jordan and Egypt, except "that there will be more democracy."
Al-Bayati is one of two Turkoman members of the 25-person committee in charge of drafting the constitution, NTV reported. He also said: "Turkomans want the constitution to stipulate that this [Iraqi] state is composed of Arabs, Turkomans, Christians, and Muslims. We are not a minority." Al-Bayati did not mention the Kurds, with whom the Turkomans have long had tense relations in northern Iraq. He added that there are four models currently under review for the structure of a federal state in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CIVILIAN OFFICERS MOVEMENT ASKS CPA FOR ROLE IN SECURITY.
Former Iraqi Staff Major General Mahan Hafiz al-Fahd told London's "Al-Hayat" that his group has submitted a proposal to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq calling for some senior Iraqi military officers that served under Saddam Hussein's regime to take over security in Baghdad, and eventually in the Iraqi governorates, the daily reported on 11 November.
Al-Fahd said that his movement, the Civilian Officers Movement, "presented to the U.S. military command the names of dozens of leaders of former security and military services with a clean record, to whom the task of safeguarding security would be handed over immediately." He added that the U.S. would not be able to establish security in Iraq because he claims they do not have a comprehensive security plan. "The Americans have still not understood that the movement of tanks in the streets of Baghdad means a show of force and not security," al-Fahd said. He also contended that the new interim Iraqi Interior Ministry is incapable of handling the security situation in Iraq because of its small size. He further claimed that the ministry has a weak police force, which the Iraqi street refuses to cooperate with.
"Al-Hayat" reported that a number of other groups have asked the CPA for responsibility over security in various Iraqi cities in recent weeks. The Iraqi Islamic Party has asked for control in unspecified Sunni areas, while the Badr Brigades of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has said it would like to manage security in the Shi'ite populated southern governorates. The Iraqi National Congress, meanwhile, has reportedly asked to handle security in Baghdad. The U.S.-led coalition has said that it opposes the idea of militias from any groups or factions trying to enforce security in Iraq. Rather, it has insisted a number of times that Iraqi political parties disband their militias. Men willing to serve are welcome to join the CPA-established New Iraqi Army, police, or security services. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT REPORTED AGAINST GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER.
Cairo's MENA reported on 10 November that Iraqi Governing Council member Sungul Chabuk survived an assassination attempt on 9 November. Chabuk, who holds a Turkoman seat on the council, said that armed Kurds opened fire on a car that she and her husband and children were traveling in near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. She claims that Kurds have threatened her a number of times. Chabuk said that she intends to take up the issue with CPA administrator Bremer, MENA reported.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Governing Council member Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum's car was fired on by U.S. troops on 12 November, Reuters reported. The troops reportedly mistook Bahr al-Ulum's car for a stolen vehicle. "A U.S. forces spokesman apologized to Mr. Bahr al-Ulum and to the Governing Council, and said that an investigation was ongoing," a statement released by the Iraqi Governing Council noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI OFFICIAL HINTS AT REINSTATING DEATH PENALTY.
Iraqi Justice Minister Hisham Chalabi has said that the ongoing violence in Iraq may force the interim government to revive the death penalty, iraqpress.org reported on 5 November. "I do not rule out reviewing the suspension of the death penalty if terrorist attacks continue against innocent Iraqi citizens," Chalabi said. U.S. administrator Bremer abolished the death penalty in Iraq in late spring. According to iraqpress.org, there were 250 offenses punishable by death under the Saddam Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TOP U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ SAYS ATTACKS HAVE DOUBLED IN TWO MONTHS.
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez told reporters at an 11 November press briefing in Baghdad that there are 30-35 attacks against coalition forces in Iraq every day, twice the number of daily attacks two months ago, AP reported. "On the near term, given the focus we have on our offensive operations, and given the level of engagements that the enemy has chosen to move to, ...we are going to have more attacks here in the next 30 to 60 days," he added.
Sanchez said that a "blanket of fear" that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might return is preventing more citizens from providing U.S. forces with intelligence information on Iraqi militants. He dismissed the notion that the insurgency has worsened, telling reporters that "the enemy has evolved its tactics" by using mortars and rockets rather than engaging U.S. forces in battle.
Sanchez estimated that some 200 foreign fighters are on the ground in Iraq. Sanchez said that although some suspects in coalition custody are suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda, the coalition has "not been able to establish definitively that they were Al-Qaeda members." (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES KILL HEAD OF SADR CITY COUNCIL.
U.S. forces shot and killed Muhannad Ghazi al-Ka'bi, the head of the Al-Sadr City District Advisory Council, in Baghdad on 9 November, following an argument between al-Ka'bi and U.S. soldiers outside the council's compound, international media reported.
According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the incident occurred when al-Ka'bi, appointed by the U.S. three months ago to run the district council, refused to follow instructions from an on-site security official, "who was enforcing security procedures stemming from recent car-bombing incidents in accordance with the standard Rules of Engagement." CENTCOM said that al-Ka'bi was shot "in the lower extremities" during the altercation. "A military medic on the scene administered immediate medical attention to [al-Ka'bi] and transported him to a local military medical facility where he was pronounced dead upon arrival," CENTCOM said.
A separate statement by the U.S. military cited in "The Washington Post" said that al-Ka'bi attempted more than once to drive his vehicle through a barricade outside the council building. U.S. soldiers fired a warning shot, and al-Ka'bi exited his vehicle and attempted to grab the firearm from the U.S. soldier.
According to the military, another soldier fired two additional warning shots. "The driver continued to fight and wrestled the soldier to the ground while attempting to pull the weapons from the soldier...the other soldier shot the driver in the upper leg," the statement noted. Iraqi guards on the scene denied that al-Ka'bi reached for the soldier's gun or tackled him, "The Washington Post" reported. The guards said the U.S. soldier shoved al-Ka'bi as he shouted at soldiers searching his car, which resulted in a physical altercation. Iraqi witnesses told the daily that U.S. soldiers had not acted in self-defense. "It was killing for the sake of killing," one Iraqi contended. The incident remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the Al-Sadr city council suspended its activities in protest against al-Ka'bi's killing, Al-Jazeera reported on 10 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI NEWSPAPER SAYS AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT COORDINATING ATTACKS ON COALITION.
A correspondent working for Al-Jazeera satellite channel in Iraq has reportedly confessed to using an Al-Jazeera office to coordinate attacks against coalition forces, Baghdad's "Al-Sa'ah" reported on 11 November.
Coalition forces arrested Sattar Karim, a correspondent in Babil, following a 10-day investigation that linked him to a car bombing in the governorate. He admitted that he turned his office in Al-Mahmudiyah into a center for negotiations and consultations regarding the bombings taking place in Baghdad. The biweekly newspaper said that Karim made the agreement with two Syrian nationals. A source at the Babil Court of Appeals told the newspaper that Karim was carrying "encrypted messages" and papers when arrested that detailed "operation troops' premises."
Al-Jazeera denied any links to Karim, Baghdad's "Al-Mada" reported on 11 November. Al-Jazeera bureau chief Ahmad al-Shuruq told "Al-Mada" that there is no person by the name Sattar Karim working for the satellite news channel. Al-Shuruq also denied that the news channel has a bureau in Al-Mahmudiyah. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. AND IRAQI INVESTIGATORS SAY MASS GRAVES CONTAIN 300,000 IRAQIS.
The director of the CPA's "mass grave action plan" told a conference on mass graves in Baghdad on 8 November that Iraq has up to 260 mass graves containing the bodies of an estimated 300,000 Iraqis, Reuters reported the same day.
"We have reports of 260 mass graves and we have confirmed approximately 40 of them," Sandra Hodgkinson said. "We believe, based on what Iraqis have reported to us, that there are 300,000 dead and that's the lower end of the estimates." Hodgkinson said that only 11 of the 260 sites have been disturbed since graves were first uncovered in May. Both she and Iraqi officials called on the general public to be patient and not disturb the sites, which could hamper human rights investigations into the atrocities. Information from the graves would likely be used in the prosecution of former regime officials for their role in the atrocities.
"Iraq doesn't have the capability at present to do the work of investigation. The main task for the moment is how to protect the sites which have been opened," Human Rights Minister Abd al-Basit al-Turki told the conference in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KADEK DISBANDS, REORGANIZES.
The Turkish-Kurdish militant group Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK) announced on 11 November that it has dissolved itself and is reorganizing into a new, democratic, broad-based, and lawful organization, according to the group's website (http://184.108.40.206/~kadek/kurdistan/). KADEK was formed in April 2002 after the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which was listed by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, dissolved itself.
Critics of KADEK have said that the group's formation equated only to a name change, rather than a new political outlook, as the group claimed. KADEK addressed this in its 11 November press release, stating: "Residues of the Leninist party model, as well as patterns of traditional, dogmatic Middle Eastern thought, rendered [KADEK] a narrow and hierarchical formation that failed to incorporate new social groups and democratic elements. These shortcomings had an adverse effect on KADEK's principal objective to establish a dialogue among the key players in the Kurdish issue in the Middle East." The group's new name will be the Kurdistan People's Congress (KHK), CNN Turk reported on 11 November. PKK/KADEK's armed wing, the People's Defense Forces, will operate independently from the new group, according to CNN Turk.
Responding to the move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that KADEK "could continue with different names. This is in the structure of the organization," "Milliyet" reported on 12 November. Another unnamed Turkish official told albawaba.com, "It is not possible for [KADEK] to escape accountability [for their past] by just changing [a] name once in a while.... This is a cheap tactical maneuver to shrug off their terrorist image and we do not take it seriously," the website reported on 11 November.
Turkey and the U.S. reportedly agreed in early October to disband KADEK (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003). The U.S. has said, however, that it would not move to eliminate PKK/KADEK militants until a five-month amnesty period, which began in August, ends (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 September 2003). State Department officials reportedly told Anatolia news agency on 12 November that the newly formed KHK will be listed along with the PKK and KADEK as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.
KADEK is thought to have some 5,000 fighters in northern Iraq. The U.S. military confirmed on 11 November that it engaged in clashes with "unknown forces" in northern Iraq near Dahuk, after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told the press that U.S. forces had engaged in clashes with PKK/KADEK rebels, bbc.co.uk reported the same day. It is estimated that some 37,000 people have died in two decades of fighting between the PKK and Turkey. The group had called for a cease-fire in 1999 after the leader of its movement, Abdullah Ocalan, was tried and sentenced to death. Ocalan remains in prison in Turkey. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
TURKEY OFFICIALLY WITHDRAWS TROOP OFFER.
Turkey said on 7 November that it has reversed an earlier decision to offer some 10,000 Turkish troops to work with coalition forces inside Iraq, international media reported. The decision came after Iraqi Governing Council members and tribal leaders voiced their opposition to the offer of Turkish troops -- or those from any neighboring countries -- on Iraqi soil. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters at a 7 November press briefing in Washington that Turkish Foreign Minister Gul informed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of the Turkish decision on 6 November. "We would have preferred if this all worked out very nicely to everybody's satisfaction, but let's remember that the goal is stability in Iraq. There is recognition, I think, on all our parts...that maybe this deployment at this time would not...add to that goal in the way that we had hoped that it would," Boucher said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KUWAIT CLOSES NORTHERN ZONE BORDERING IRAQ.
Kuwait has reportedly closed its northern zone along the Iraqi border in an effort to boost security ahead of the December Gulf Cooperation Council meeting to be held in Kuwait City, Reuters reported on 9 November. The move also aims to prevent smuggling and infiltration into Iraq by Islamist militants.
The demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait is some 217 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. The UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) patrolled the zone for 12 years. The mission closed last month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003), after determining that Iraq no longer poses a security threat to Kuwait. (Kathleen Ridolfo)LEBANESE CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR COMMENTS ON IRAQI FUNDS.
Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riyad Salamah has said that Lebanese banks are legally bound under UN Security Council Resolution 1483 to transfer funds deposited by the deposed Hussein regime to the Development Fund for Iraq.
In a statement to London-based "Al-Hayat," published on 10 November, Salamah said that the $500 million in funds held in Lebanese commercial banks has not yet been transferred because authorities in Iraq have not filed the necessary paperwork for the transfer, because of what he reportedly called administrative chaos in Iraq. Salamah told the daily that the Lebanese Central Bank has not placed any restrictions on the assets, adding: "The Lebanese Central Bank respects the freedom of transactions between bank and depositor. There are no instructions to pay or not to pay the money to the current Iraqi authority. If the bank believes that the party requesting that the account be transferred has the necessary documents, the bank can act on its own and does not need to inform the Central Bank."
Salamah asserted that U.S. and Iraqi officials are welcome to review the accounts in question. "If the U.S. and Iraqi authorities wish to examine the accounts, we have no objection because they are the account holders [but] on condition that this should not infringe on the banking confidentiality rule," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)JORDANIAN KING INTERVIEWED ON IRAQ.
Jordan's King Abdullah II told Kuwait's "Al-Rai al-Amm" in an interview published on 11 November that he opposes the idea of a federal government for Iraq. "I'm afraid that federation in Iraq will be a step to divide the country, particularly if it's established on ethnic and sectarian bases," King Abdullah said.
Asked about Jordan's refusal to offer troops to Iraq, the king said that the issue is a "critical" one. If Iraqis had been open to the idea of troops from neighboring countries, he said Jordan would have been the first country to offer assistance in that field.
King Abdullah said that Jordan-Kuwait relations are better than ever. "We have continuous consultation and coordination on bilateral relations and the situation in the Arab region, particularly the Iraqi issue." "We and Kuwait are looking [forward to] the day when Iraq is a stable and secure country." The king said that Jordan and the United States continue to investigate the 7 August bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 August 2003) but added that they have not reached any clear conclusions in the investigation as yet. (Kathleen Ridolfo)JORDAN ASKS COALITION FOR INFORMATION ON DETAINEES.
Jordan has asked coalition authorities in Iraq to provide information regarding some 37 Jordanian nationals held by coalition forces in Iraq, Jordan News Agency reported on 10 November. "The Information Ministry has established contacts with U.S. Embassy officials and handed them a memorandum asking for information about the fate of 37 Jordanians or any other Jordanian citizens currently detained by the coalition forces," Petra quoted a Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying, dpa reported on 10 November. The families of the 37 detainees submitted the memorandum to the Jordanian government. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAN DENIES ANY INVOLVEMENT IN ASSASSINATION OF AL-HAKIM.
The Iranian government has denied any involvement in the assassination of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was killed in a car bombing in the Iraqi shrine city of Al-Najaf on 29 August (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 August 2003), IRNA reported on 10 November.
In a statement issued on 10 November, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad "vehemently" denied Iraqi newspaper reports that Iran was involved in the assassination. "Unfortunately, during recent days some Iraqi newspapers have printed false news in that regard," the statement added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
UN REPORTS IRAQ WILL FACE FUEL SHORTAGE THIS WINTER.
A report by the UN Joint Logistics Center (UNJLC) released last week says that the CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) of the Iraqi Oil Ministry have only managed to stockpile half of the required 500 million liters of kerosene for the winter, Dubai's "Gulf News" reported on 10 November.
The Oil Ministry and SOMO generally begin stockpiling heating fuel in the summer months, but this year's efforts were hampered by the current situation in Iraq. UNJLC said that the stocks in reserve had not even reached the quarter-billion-liter mark by the end of October. The UNJLC head of fuel planning, John Levins, told "Gulf News" that kerosene stocks are unlikely to improve this winter. But, he added, much depends on how quickly refinery production is restored. Iraqi refineries are plagued by a lack of spare parts, and inadequate maintenance on machinery, in addition to recurring attacks on crude supply pipelines.
According to "Gulf News," only 20 percent of crude goes towards fuel conversion. And only half of that figure is processed into light fuels such as kerosene, gasoline, and diesel. The CPA is reportedly taking steps to import kerosene to make up for the expected shortfall. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN STAFF GATHERS IN CYPRUS TO REVIEW UN SECURITY IN IRAQ.
Security officials from the United Nations headquarters in New York met in Cyprus with UN international staff members withdrawn from Baghdad to review the future of UN operations in Iraq and the necessary security arrangements needed to carry out those tasks, the UN News Center reported on 11 November.
International staff was pulled from Baghdad on 30 October pending additional security arrangements. Other UN international staff remains on duty in other parts of the country. An independent panel investigating the 19 August bombing of the UN's Baghdad headquarters blamed the UN security apparatus in New York and in the field for security lapses that contributed to the attack (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 November 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BRITISH ADMINISTRATORS IN AL-BASRAH REPORTEDLY COMPLAIN ABOUT RESOURCES, ATTENTION.
British administrators based in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah have reportedly complained that the U.S. has focused coalition resources on Baghdad and northern Iraq to the detriment of the southern areas, telegraph.co.uk reported on 11 November.
"There is an operational lack of teeth," Sir Hilary Synnott, the regional commander for southern Iraq, said. "We need more human resources." According to the website, the coalition has some 2,000 employees in Iraq, with half stationed in Baghdad. Only 20 employees are stationed in the south. Compounding the frustration is the withdrawal of Spanish and Japanese staff, who pulled out following rioting there in August, and after power and fuel shortages became too much to bear.
British officials said that they cannot make important administrative decisions without prior approval from CPA officials in Baghdad, who they say rarely return e-mails or phone calls.
The website reported that while the situation in Al-Basrah appears to be under control, locals have expressed concern that the situation could destabilize quickly. Ahmad al-Malaki, a local cleric, has reportedly seized control over the school system in southern Iraq, and is reportedly pushing religious fundamentalism in the schools. Despite complaints from teachers, Chris Monk, a CPA senior adviser for the south, told the website that he is not sure who has authority over the school system. "I'm only able to monitor and record what goes on in the school system. I don't have an inspector to see what's going on. Privately, I may have misgivings, but I've been told it is not my job to confront [al-Malaki] on these issues but that of the Iraqi ministry," Monk said. Residents in Iraq's second city also complained that they were subjected to house-to-house searches by Islamist and tribal groups, who have also reportedly set up unauthorized vehicle checkpoints. A local judge confirmed to the website that local groups appear to be seizing power in the south.
The website also reported on 11 November that senior British officials have urged the U.S. to transfer power to an Iraqi government within a year, or the coalition might face a large-scale uprising in Iraq. An unnamed British source reportedly said, "Having the Americans governing in Baghdad is not sustainable for an indefinite period, otherwise you will end up with a genuine resistance." Another British source said: "We've wasted the whole summer. The Americans are only now thinking seriously about what to do about Iraq but the debate in Washington is not resolved." According to the website, British officials are concerned that they will have to contend with a scenario similar to the 1920 uprising against British forces in Iraq, when Shi'ite clerics in Karbala and Al-Najaf called Iraqis to jihad against the British occupation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ESTABLISHES NEW OFFICE TO MANAGE CONTRACTS IN IRAQ.
The U.S. Defense Department has established a new office to coordinate and establish policies for Iraqi reconstruction projects, washingtonpost.com reported on 11 November. The CPA's Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Office (http://www.rebuilding-iraq.net) will advise government agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the spending of international donor funds, and proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil, once managed by the UN under the oil-for-food program, which is scheduled to close on 21 November.
CPA spokesman Major Joseph M. Yoswa said that the new office would help minimize concerns about contracting oversight. Retired Rear Admiral David J. Nash will run the office of some 100 staffers that will include specialists from the U.S. government and private sector. The office will report directly to CPA administrator Bremer, and will not have the power to award contracts. It will, however, direct USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers to award some 20 prime reconstruction contracts from the second round of U.S. funds for Iraq, washingtonpost.com cited Yoswa as saying. Both USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers were criticized for their handling of the first round of contracts, since those contracts were reportedly awarded directly or through limited competition (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 May 2003).
Yoswa said that U.S. officials have not determined whether U.S. laws would allow overseas-based companies to bid on the contracts, washingtonpost.com reported. In addition, he said that officials have not yet decided on the bidding process for the second round of contracts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. OFFICIALS INVESTIGATING ALLEGATIONS CONCERNING BIDDING PROCESS OF CONTRACTS.
U.S. officials have reportedly put on hold three mobile-phone contracts while authorities investigate allegations that associates of the new Iraqi Governing Council influenced the bidding process, ft.com reported on 11 November. The Iraqi Communications Ministry awarded the two-year contracts in October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003) to three Middle Eastern consortia for the construction and operation of wireless telephone networks in north, central, and southern Iraq. Wireless communications were banned under the deposed Hussein regime.
Lawyers for the CPA reportedly recommended that the signing of the contracts be postponed for 10 days to investigate the claims of cronyism by the Iraqi authorities in the awarding of the licenses, ft.com reported. In addition, the U.S. Defense Department's Inspector-General has opened a separate investigation into the allegations, which is related to the role of Iraqi-born billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, who is involved in the Orascom consortium. One CPA official commented on the ministry's award of licenses, saying, "The question is who did what due diligence, and when?" The CPA and Pentagon have reportedly denied that there is a problem with the licenses. (Kathleen Ridolfo)POLISH PREMIER SAYS TROOPS WILL STAY IN IRAQ UNTIL SECURITY RESTORED.
Visiting Prime Minister Leszek Miller said at the Polish military encampment in Babylon on 11 November that the Polish stabilization contingent will remain in Iraq until the new Iraqi authorities are able to assume "responsibility for their country and the security of their own citizens," Polish Television reported. Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke, who is on a Middle East tour with Miller, said Poland wants to supply its contingent in Iraq with more armored personnel carriers and "somewhat more heavy equipment," but he did not elaborate. Last week, the Polish contingent in Iraq lost its first soldier, Major Hieronim Kupczyk, who was fatally wounded in an ambush on 6 November. Miller told Polish Radio on 12 November that the ambush was masterminded by people from Baghdad, not locals. (Jan Maksymiuk)POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS POLAND READY TO HAND OVER COMMAND IN 2004.
Polish Defense Minister Janusz Zemke said on 8 November that Poland will be ready to hand over command of its multinational force stationed in south-central Iraq by mid-2004, dpa reported the same day. Zemke reportedly told Polish Radio that Spain has yet to take control over the rotating command because Spanish officers lack the necessary Russian-language skills. The 9,000-strong force from some 20 countries includes troops from Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. (Kathleen Ridolfo).SWEDISH MILITARY MAN TO TRAIN U.S. SOLDIERS IN IRAQ.
Swedish Lieutenant Colonel Per-Erik Korstroem has signed on to train U.S. soldiers for their mission in Iraq, Swedish radio Ekot reported on 9 November. Korstroem is the former head of the United Nations civil guard, according to the report.
Korstroem has reportedly said that U.S. troops in Iraq "are perceived as being provocative and have never had the opportunity to build trust or create networks and relationships," adding, "They regard Iraqis as some kind of terrorists."
He said that his training style would seek to change the U.S. image in Iraq. "You can't change things if you hide behind walls and barbed wire, as the American units are doing," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)JAPAN POSTPONES TROOP DEPLOYMENT.
Japan said on 13 November that conditions are not right for the deployment of Japanese forces to Iraq, following the 12 November attack on the Italian military police headquarters in Al-Nasiriyah, AFP reported on 13 November.
"If the situation allowed our Self-Defense Forces to participate, they could go at any time," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters in Tokyo. "Unfortunately, it is not such a situation." Tokyo had planned to send troops to Iraq by year-end. Japan passed a law in July allowing Japanese troops to be dispatched to Iraq on a noncombat mission. The troops were to be stationed in the relatively quiet south-central zone, where the Al-Nasiriyah bombing occurred.
The Japanese opposition, which gained more power in 9 November parliamentary elections, has opposed a troop deployment to Iraq on various grounds. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is slated to visit Japan on 14 November. Japan pledged some $2 billion in grants and another $3.5 billion in medium-term loans to Iraq at the 23-24 donors conference in Madrid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2003). Meanwhile, Portugal said on 12 November that it will now dispatch 128 elite policemen to Al-Basrah instead of Al-Nasiriyah, AP reported on 13 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)